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Get Ready for Planetary Alignment Above Washington / Oregon Coasts, Maybe Solar Flare Watch

Published 5/29/24 at 6:55 p.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Bandon, Oregon) – So, for some reason you're up at 5 a.m. early this next week, and you happen to be out on the Oregon coast or Washington coast: at say... Bandon, Reedsport, Westport or maybe Seaside. The sky happens to be clear, and what do you see? There's a line of prominent stars across the horizon to the southeast – perhaps a bit more than usual. (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection: a previous planetary alignment on the coast)

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From Monday through Wednesday (June 3 through 5), there's a planetary alignment taking place in the skies above the Washington coast and Oregon coast. Take a look to the south and southeast, just before dawn, and at least seven planets (plus the moon) will be lined up across the lower edges of the sky.

On top of that bit of rollicking coastal night gazing, the big, gnarly sunspot that put on that massive northern lights show a couple weeks back is pointing at the Earth again. That does not mean something is happening, but it's worth keeping an eye on.

According to Jim Todd, astronomy expert with Portland's OMSI, starting this Monday you'll see a lineup of Saturn, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and the moon. Those are just the visible planets. If you have a telescope, you'll also get to witness the nonvisible planets of Pluto, Neptune and Uranus – as well as the mini-planet Ceres.

Graphic: OMSI

“For viewers, Saturn will be the easiest, followed by Mars,” Todd said. “The challenge will be locating Jupiter, and Mercury near the sun’s glare and visible low above the eastern horizon. The nonvisible planets Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus require a detailed map and a large telescope to view. Venus is at superior solar conjunction on June 4 and not visible. The waning moon will swing by the planets first few days of June.”

Those seven planets will wander off onto their separate paths on June 5, which includes Mercury dipping below the eastern horizon and Jupiter getting higher out of the sun's glare.

The fact this is slightly to the east and rather low may prevent many from seeing these celestial neighbors from the coastlines of Washington and Oregon because of hills directly in view, so those in the central and eastern parts of the Pacific Northwest take note.

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“For the summer months, will have six planets, Saturn, Neptune, Mars, Uranus, Jupiter, and Pluto in the morning skies,” Todd said. “Both Mercury and Venus will have a brief appearance in the evening, then swing back towards morning next fall.”

Planets in Seaside - Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Also slightly visible with a telescope may be Ceres, which is only about 1,000 km in diameter and known as a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt near the orbit of Mars.

If you're in the mood for more northern lights, there's an off-chance we could get to see another set. The massive sunspot AR 3664 is 15 times the mass of the Earth, and it was the gargantuan energy-producer that created the serious geomagnetic storm earlier this month. This does mean it will do so again, it's simply worth noting as something to keep an eye on. (Out of Bandon Came Some of the Most Intense Aurora Shots: S. Oregon Coast Photo Adventures)

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Bandon this month, photo courtesy Manuela Durson Fine Arts 

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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